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Put your oxygen mask first!

It has probably been a while since you were on an airplane, either on your way to a vacation or possibly a business trip. Let me refresh your memory, while you wait for the plane to take off, the flight attendants provide a safety guidance to show you how to protect yourself in case of an emergency. One of the directions is to put first the oxygen mask on yourself, before helping other people who are in need. In case you were wondering about the reasoning for doing so, it is simply to help the brain operate properly. When we are under stress, there is an increase of stress hormones, which cause other physical reactions in our body, such as an increased heart rate and muscle tension, that impacts our ability to think straight and to act in a reasonable mindset. This is a healthy and normal reaction of our body that protects us from danger and guards us against pain and injury, also called a fight, (freeze) or flight response. The moment the danger passes, our body goes back to normality and balances the increased hormones. However, when the stress continues for long periods of time, such as during the duration of COVID, it can affect the communication between the brain and the physical body, which may trigger other reactions in the body. Stress can promote other issues in our lives, these include migraines, shoulder or neck pains, stomachaches, fatigue, or sometimes memory issues, which can impact our ability to think and affect our emotions as well as our behaviors. Moreover, we have different roles in our society, such as being sons, daughters or parents. In these roles, there are certain expectations placed on us that we learn to follow. Therefore, sometimes, when we take care of ourselves first, we are considered selfish or self-centered. However, when we are not taking care of ourselves first, we cannot help our loved ones since we feel high levels of stress, we are overwhelmed, and even angry. This can impact our relationships, communication, performance, and our well-being. When we are stressed, our food intake changes, we increase the use of alcohol, and even eat faster, which increases the amount of air that comes in to our body and may affect our digestive system. When we begin by taking care of ourselves, we start to have more patience, time, and energy to be there for the people that we care for. Both you and your family deserve that. You can start by taking a deep slow breath in from your nose while counting to 3 and 3 slow breaths out from your nose. You can make a list of what you need to do, make sure the list is not too long or not too overwhelming to you, if something is not a necessity it can wait to be done next week or even choose to let it go. Practice been more aware of your surroundings and make the effort to be more kind to yourself and others while working towards accepting and expressing your emotions and who you are.

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